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Time Out's pick of the freshest vegetarian and vegan recipe books

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries… and me

Denis Cotter, Collins, £20

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What more can be said on the subject of growing, cooking and eating vegetables? Quite a lot, it seems. The author is chef-owner of Café Paradiso, a vegetarian restaurant in Cork, Ireland, and he has previously published two other well-received cookery books: ‘Café Paradiso’ and ‘Paradiso Seasons’. A natural story-teller, Cotter doesn’t believe in writing a single paragraph when ten would be more fun. Unusually, there’s far more prose than recipes in this book, so it’s just as well that he (unlike many chefs) can actually write.

This is a quirky, personal book, one that defies a structure that most book publishers would insist on, such as chapters divided ‘logically’ – alphabetically, say, or by seasons. Here the four chapters, arranged rather whimsically, cover green vegetables, foraged foods, garden-cultivated vegetables, and foods grown in the dark. Great for telling a tale, perhaps, but not so helpful when you want a recipe for courgettes (‘green’ or ‘cultivated’?) or mushrooms (‘foraged’ or ‘dark-grown’?) Arbitrariness aside, the author’s love of all things live and edible comes through clearly and there’s plenty to capture the cook’s, as well as the reader’s, attention.

Cotter’s globally inspired recipes are a far cry from the usual-suspect lentil and pasta dishes that are the bane of many a vegetarian cookery book; the recipes are unusually enticing, especially with sucha high quotient of vegan dishes. The author writes, ‘I’ve always been more of a magpie, taking a little of this culture and that cooking style, to make dishes that are somehow coherent but not necessarily faithful to a historic culture,’ and this approach shows in the fusion style of the recipes. They do require a certain level of skill (and time spent tracking down ingredients), but this is a book that rewards the slow and thoughtful approach. One for the thinking veggie, who enjoys reading as much as eating.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 1960: March 11-19 2008

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